Observations On Ted Kennedy’s Funeral

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There’s something  extremely interesting about watching a Kennedy in the process of being a Kennedy.   Tragically, funerals seem second nature to this family.   They’ve had many opportunities to fine tune this almost preternatural ability to mourn with grace and dignity.  

Because it seems death has never taken a holiday from menacing the Kennedy family on a fairly regular basis, one might ask (as one has many times before) is there a curse attached to Joseph Kennedy’s extended family?  

Who can say, but I would think you take your chances when you’re wife gives birth to nine children.   Then,  those nine grow up to become equally prolific.     The larger the family; the more your increase your odds that well, in the simplest of terms, shit is going to happen.  

It is true that some Kennedy’s seem to die more tragically then most people, though.   Joe Jr. died in the midst of a military mission.  Kathleen died in a plane crash in the mid-40’s, Rosemary was born a tad slower than the rest of her siblings and her very proud father who couldn’t handle having a daughter who wasn’t as full of the same “vim, vitality and uh, viguh”  like his other children, had her lobotomized.   John and Robert were murdered; one while in the Oval Office;  the other while trying to get there.    There were the overdoses, the car accidents; the skiing mishap, the illnesses, the rape trial and of course, John Jr’s. plane crash.

What kills Kennedy’s?   Arrogance might be a factor, but plain old life and it’s “luck of the draw” randomness plays a role, to.

I wouldn’t think it easy to be a member of this clan.  I would think it to be quite touch in fact.   The legacy of public service;  that of achievement.   I would find it daunting to be a Kennedy.   Yet, they come together for family events..the happy evens and the sad ones and each seem to know the role they play. 

Teddy knew his.  He assumed the role of patriarch after Bobby was killed in 1968.     That only made him more visible and that only amplified the many mistakes he made in life.   Well, that and simply being potential headline that every Kennedy seems to be.

I knew several people who refused to watch the funeral because they couldn’t separate the man from his misdeeds.    I won’t chastise them for that.   Free will, you know?    Despite my feelings for the man, his actions and his politics, I decided to watch his funeral because if for nothing else, there is something  fascinating about watching this family as they try to hold the unit together…even though it slowly shrinks by attrition and time.

Just on a surface level, I must say this:  the organ playing left much to be desired.  I’ve never sat down at a huge, wall-to-wall Wurlitzer before and I’ve never tried to play one.   I can imagine that the prowessand dexterity needed to play must be incredible.   OK, I’ll give you that, but I do believe dexterity was an issue today, because I think I heard some “misplays” on the keys.

Secondly, did anyone else notice how hollow and old Bill Clinton is looking?   He’s pale and his stark, ruddy looking nose  and a swollen, reddish face only contrasts the difference.   Why the red nose I wonder?  Well, I could venture about three decent guesses, but I won’t.  Not here; not now.  Plus, as Clinton  was standing in a pew,  holding a funeral card, his hand shook vehemently.   Palsy-like.     It was odd.

And frankly, during the Intercession of Prayers when younger family members stood up and offered them, I was made a little uneasy and frankly, I didn’t appreciate the way they were politicized.    Health care was mention–that it should be a right and not a privilege.

One child mentioned his uncle’s desire to end all war.

Basic human rights for every one:  man, woman…gay and straight.

Then, Obama stood up before God and man and hit home more agenda driven comments that he should have omitted.

I’m all for peace.  I’m all for decent health care that makes sense to every American and not some knee jerk response to asuage a political mind set.   I love my gay friends and wish them access to tha  which makes them happy and feel equal.

But to extol these things out of the mouths of young children and in a Catholic church at a funeral for a man who’s own life was often tarnished by his own actions????

No.

If rhetoric like this was spewed forth during a Conservative’s funeral, the media would be all over it.  

Funerals are a signifying event which in no uncertain terms, commemorate a life lived; the ultimate indication of change.

They are not, nor should they ever be political rallies.   

Ted Kennedy’s life was not exemplary, regardless of how his family and political colleagues try to paint it post script.  His funeral never should have been as polarizing as his life had been and personally, I found many of the comments quite polarizing…especially in that they well placed during a nationally televised broadcast of a funeral.

That said, his life should have ended differently–his painful battle with brain cancer not withstanding.  This is just my opinion only, but there should have been more across the board closure involved with this ceremony of closure.   

And sadly, politicizing a funeral mass was not the way to do it.

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14 comments

  1. I just finished watching the funeral and I loved how politics were kept out of it. The speeches were personal stories about the man, he seemed truly loved by those around him. It reminded me of the funeral for Tip O’Neil, people from all sides coming together to celebrate the man and not his politics or the polarization he sometimes represented.

    RIP Ted….you will be missed.
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    Funny, I heard something different in the speeches.

    I can’t deny some were heaped in sentiment for a beleoved family member lost to cancer, but I also heard several well-placed political digs. I was bothered most by the appearance of an eight year old great nephew as part of the funeral, talking about the need for fair and equitable treatment for all people, including gays. It just didn’t seem appropriate, nor were some of the other things that were said.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I believe in that, too…I recently lost my best friend to AIDS nine days after he was diagnosed with the wretched disease. Even so, I don’t think this particular sentiment was/is in good taste because it was expressed at a funeral by a child.

    LK

  2. The life/death of Mary Jo should be celebrated…..she denied him the Presidency. Hopefully, she flipped him the bird as he decsended into Hell.

  3. Denied him the presidency but he still had a lifetime dedicated to public service. Not to mention acting as patriarch to a massive extended family. Both famous and infamous, he is a character who is hard to dismiss nor deny his impact on modern politcal life. As President Obama said in his eulogy (paraphrased) If he had slipped out of public life and lived the rest of his days out of the public eye, nobody would have blamed him. But despite personal tragedy, embarassments and missteps, he soldiered on.

  4. I noted that some of the remarks had political roots but the man was a politician virtually his entire adult life. The grandchildren and nephews were acknowledging things that were important to their grandfather/uncle during his lifetime. He held passionate views and no doubt they recognized that and incorporated some of it in their own lives. The remarks didn’t surprise me but I have no basis to debate their appropriateness.

    I found it to be a very touching service for a man, while certainly flawed, worked very hard during his life for the downtrodden, the underprivileged and the marginalized in our society. I respected his works and I will certainly miss him and the role he played in the senate.

    It was certainly clear that he aggressively shouldered the burden of being the family patriarch for the children of his murdered brothers. That alone should earn him accolades.

    Cheers

  5. Having lost several wonderful and close friends to HIV, I pretty much had to ignore the nasty bitterness of that remark hurled at you.

    I guess much of my happiness in life stems from my ability to appreciate the positive in life and ignore the ugly and nasty parts.

    Life is too short to dwell on the bitter.

    Cheers

    .
    Bully for you, David. You are a better man for this ability. I envy you. I really do. Someday I hope to parse out the ugly and the bitter and the people who choose to purvey these negatives, but right now, the wounds are too fresh. This too shall pass. I am nothing if not resilient, but even that gets tougher as Father Time continues to march on……

    My face…

    And my ass…

    Cheers to you, too!

  6. Laurie, I think if you should know anything about me, you should realize that politics are not something I get into heated debates about. I voiced my opinion as well here, but at the end of the day, I’m not a democrat and I’m not a republican. I admired this man for his service in the face of personal and public adversity, the likes of which I can only imagine how I would deal with in my little life. He and Tip O’Neil are from the rare breed who, at the end of a heated and divisive argument, could reach across the aisle and shake the hands of his opponents and try to find a common ground, something so lacking these days from both sides….
    I love debate, I love the political process and opinions voiced in a cordial manner where both sides can be heard and work can be accomplished to reach the common ground we all strive for, I live for that….
    It’s only when the political debate has degraded to the point of name calling and finger pointing and screaming, that I feel lost in this political jungle. Ted Kennedy was someone who could sift through that mess and find the common ground everyone was too busy screaming about to find…
    So thats my opinion, I’m not putting down your opinion, I was merely injecting how he is definitely percieved here in New England…

  7. First time commenter, long time reader.
    Did you expect anything less? Remember the Wellstone memorial?

  8. Jan: Get your own blog.

    LK: I’ve never liked the Kennedys.

    Their collection of toothy “Baston”-ites with their faux-regal aire, playing the populist role for people they wouldn’t let wax their cars, just makes me itch.

    Teddy was expelled from Harvard for cheating. He was arrested while at UVA law school for reckless driving during a police chase.

    Like his father and brothers, he cheated on his wife, often. In one such case, he left his “friend” in a wrecked car at the bottom of a lake, and didn’t call the police for 10 hours.

    He continued to drink abusively, have sex with 20-year-old groupies, and pay people to cover it up, for decades. His supporters point out that he settled down after his second marriage in 1992 — but Hells Bells, he was 60 years old. That’s not overcoming your demons — that’s just getting worn out.

    I don’t get this fascination with his whole clan, beyond the watching-a-train-wreck aspect. Sure, he did a few good things, but considering his resources, I’m not impressed. Men born with less have done more.

    Nonetheless, great post! Inspired me to pitch in my $0.02.

  9. I was raised in a hard-headed Democrat, Kennedy-loving family, but I’ve always had a sort of love/hate relationship with Ted. I wasn’t going to watch the funeral, because it seemed hypocritical to watch someone be eulogized that I really hadn’t supported while he was alive. I decided to watch for the simple fact that to me it was an historic event. But I’m not surprised nor overly bothered by the political remarks. I’m not sure how you could be a Kennedy and avoid it, in any arena. I ended up being glad I did watch it. I learned some things about the man that I never knew before. It didn’t suddenly make him a saint in my eyes, hell, his own son pointed out that he was far from perfect, but it did soften my view of him a bit. Maybe he really wasn’t as bad as I always thought. There was one thing about it all my life, though… I’m about the same age as Caroline, and we both lost our fathers at about the same age. Mine wasn’t lost so publically and heinously as hers, but a small child’s loss of a parent is devastating, no matter the circumstances… and I always envied Caroline – because she always had her Uncle Teddy. That much I always gave him. I would have loved to have had an Uncle Teddy of my own. How different my life might have been.
    .
    Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, my parents were card carrying Democrats. But back then, the party here in Texas was far different than it is today. It was more Conservative.

    I too was raised in the shadow the Kennedy family created. But to me JFK, Jackie and the kids represented more of the Kennedy mystique than the rest of the clan. LIke the Kennedy’s, we were Catholic and raised as such. My mother had a deep abiding affection for Jackie; they were just a year apart in age. I’m a few years younger than Caroline but I had my hair cut in the same bob she had for most of her single digits. I din’t remember when my parents political affiliation changed. I too was a Democrat up until Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which deregulated radio and in turn, all but killed the medium.

    The Kennedy’s were rich. There was a degree of elegance that surrounded them. They had an in your face committment to public service. I never had any qualms with that. I was never a fan of Ted’s. I don’t think he was a particular stellar human being and like so many Americans, that sullied my overall opinion of him in and out of office. While I can be magnanimous to the point of agreeing that much of the legislation Ted authored and pushed through (almost single handedly in some cases) had a tremendous impact on a lot of people, it is hard to forget about the deceit, the drinking, the cheating (at Harvard and with other women), Mary Jo Kopechne, his role in his nephew’s rape case, the post marital womanizing and sadly, the list goes on.

    The fact that he’s a Liberal Democrat hardly makes a difference here. If this same man were a Republican, I’d still feel the same. Integrity, honor, faithfulness, and trust matter in this day and age, especially in politics. Ted Kennedy lived a life that was often devoid of those things.

    One more thing: what certain readers have misunderstood about my blog post is that I had an issue with what several young people said during the portion of the funeral mass that involved the Intercession of Prayers. A young child, under ten uttered a prayer for equal rights for immigrants and gays. This obviously was not the heartfelt desure and devotion of a child. This was something he was told to say. AND THAT is what I have issue with.

  10. There is something to say for a family patriarch. Our Uncle David is one. His brothers before him are gone with the exception of one who is in a nursing home. Now it is he who watches over our huge family. Ted Kennedy was forced in that same role. It can’t be easy keeping an eagle’s eye out on all his children, grandchildren, tons of nieces and nephews. Exactly what we have. I’m sure Uncle Ted was a story teller, too, and I’m also sure he knew no stranger.

    My family is fortunate to have our Uncle David still with us.

  11. Where was Sheila Jackson Lee on this one? Maybe she was there? Maybe the media caught onto her self publicizing stunts that we Houstonians have had to bare for over a decade. Then again if she was there and even spoke, who really listened? If she did speak (as you can tell, I didn’t pay attention), it would have been a ploy for her own agenda. After all, who the hell says, “I HAIL FROM….” LOL Ok Empress Lee LOL.
    Anyhow, really, what has the last Kennedy done for America that was comparably phenomenal in comparison to his late brothers, other than take a seat in congress for over a half a century.
    Can anyone name a law he passed that was awesome for us all? Can anyone really recall anything he has done, especially lately, that stands out above the rest?

    I can’t and would like to know why he was so glorified other than being a Kennedy.

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